Category Archives: News
from the Yakima Herald-Republic, Friday, January 18, 2008:The pastors at Planned ParenthoodYAKIMA HERALD-REPUBLICWhile some Yakima religious leaders are preparing for this Saturday’s anti-abortion march downtown, others are working quietly to support women’s right to choose abortion.
About a dozen local pastors serve on the clergy committee of Planned Parenthood of Central Washington in Yakima. They meet monthly to talk about issues concerning the reproductive rights organization, which offers birth control, abortion, HIV/AIDS testing and other medical services to women throughout the area.The pastors, who belong to traditional mainline and progressive Christian churches, offer their support to Planned Parenthood staffers. They sometimes are asked to provide pastoral guidance to women considering terminating a pregnancy. They tell women that it’s morally permissible in religious terms to choose to have an abortion.Clergy have been involved with Planned Parenthood since its start more than 90 years ago, so these local pastors are carrying on a long tradition.”Many Planned Parenthood (chapters) started in church basements,” said Anna Franks, president of Planned Parenthood of Central Washington. “Clergy were right there at the beginning of the movement. They had couples coming to them seeking support.”The local pastors’ work is not easy or comfortable, particularly in a community with a heavy representation of Christian conservatives who deplore abortion. The Rev. David Helseth, senior pastor at Yakima’s Englewood Christian Church, acknowledged that not all members of his own congregation approve of his involvement with Planned Parenthood.But “it primarily comes down to supporting women’s rights to make choices,” said Helseth, who was a founding board member of the local Planned Parenthood chapter and its chairman from 1998 to 2000.The existence of the Planned Parenthood clergy committee shows that while conservative Christian and Catholic leaders have taken the lead in denouncing abortion, their view is not shared by all clergy.”Anti-abortion isn’t an accurate representation of how all religious people feel,” said the Rev. Jane Newall, founder and senior pastor of Yakima’s Rainbow Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church, which welcomes people of all sexual orientations. “I think our voices are sometimes overshouted by anti-abortion groups who choose to use religion as one of their whipping posts.”Newall is a member of Planned Parenthood’s national clergy advisory board and a member of the local organization’s board.A local evangelical Christian minister castigates the pastors for their association with Planned Parenthood and their support for abortion rights.”Abortion is a curse on the land; our nation is suffering because of it. Four thousand babies a day are murdered in the womb, and we will have to pay a great price for that,” said the Rev. Ron Thomasson, pastor at Gateway Fellowship in Yakima. “I think (the Planned Parenthood pastors) are deceived. They have a liberal mind-set.”Thomasson believes Helseth and Newall are “in a very small minority” among Christian ministers on the east side of the Cascades. He will be out Saturday participating in the anti-abortion walk, which commemorates the 35th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade that barred states from outlawing abortion.Pastoral guidance on abortionThe local Planned Parenthood clergy committee is part of a small but growing nationwide trend that started in the mid-1990s. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America formed its national Clergy Advisory Board in 1994.Since then, clergy committees have formed at about 15 percent of the 110 Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country, including three of the five in Washington, according to the Rev. Vincent Lachina, a Southern Baptist minister and the state chaplain for the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Washington.”It’s only since 1994, when the religious right became so powerful, the progressive clergy tried to find a voice and speak out,” said Lachina, who attends most meetings of clergy committees in the state. But “we’re just now finding our voice. It’s very important for us to meet with our peers and talk about these issues and know there are others who are part of the progressive movement.”The Yakima clergy committee has been meeting “quietly and consistently” for about 12 years, Helseth said.”We’ve had (Planned Parenthood) staff members talk about what they do. We’ve talked about homosexuality, HIV and AIDS, the role of clergy, sex education. We don’t necessarily get theological.”But some of the clergy committee members do get political. They participate in legislative lobbying in Olympia on behalf of Planned Parenthood, and write letters to legislators. A major issue for Planned Parenthood in this year’s legislative session is whether local school districts should be required to seek federal funding for sex education. Such funding would require them to teach abstinence only, instead of a more comprehensive approach that includes lessons such as condom use.Clergy committee members also receive referrals from Planned Parenthood staff of patients who are struggling with difficult decisions. In addition, the clergy group has drafted a “Pastoral Letter About Your Abortion Decision” to guide patients.The letter states that “we believe that God loves you, and that you can find strength, understanding and comfort in that love on days when you are in doubt or distress. We support your right and your ability to choose what is best for you. If you have thought about this decision, then you should allow yourself to be at peace and to be confident in your decision.”But Thomasson, at Gateway Fellowship, said he strongly disagrees that it’s religiously permissible to have an abortion.”We believe according to the Bible that God is originator of life, he decides when it begins, and he ends it at his determination,” Thomasson said. “We don’t want to meddle with what God is doing.”Helseth takes a different view.”When women are given power over their own bodies, and especially reproductivity, they will make good decisions that are best for them and their children and family,” he said. “This strengthens families and strengthens communities.”Planned Parenthood’s Franks encouraged pastors to join the clergy committee.”The clergy that have come forward are willing to respect women’s decisions and offer spiritual guidance regardless of their decisions,” she said. “We would love more clergy to join.”* Herald-Republic City Editor Harris Meyer contributed to this report.
Hi, folks. Deb just called me and let me know that Rev. Jane was in the paper today. What an encouraging story! Very cool. Laura
Published on Saturday, November 10, 2007
Local clergy share a common ground
By ADRIANA JANOVICH
ANDY SAWYER/Yakima Herald-Republic
They appear to have little in common.
He’s in his 70s; she’s in her 30s. He took a vow of chastity; she has a partner and they have four children.
Monsignor John A. Ecker is a Catholic priest, the senior pastor at St. Paul Cathedral, a Yakima parish that’s more than 90 years old. The Rev. Jane Newall is the founding and senior pastor at a 13-year-old Christian church that’s open to people of all sexual orientations.
The two pastors from different backgrounds have worked together in the past on community projects and committees. And they’re working together again.
Newall and Ecker are the co-leaders of the 2007-08 Yakima Association of Churches and Faith Communities.
The association’s members — lay and religious leaders of local churches and faith communities — strive to put their theological differences aside in order to focus on what they have in common, and identify and meet the needs of the community.
“We certainly have different liturgical backgrounds, but we can work together,” the 38-year-old Newall says.
“The more secure you are in your own faith, the less you worry about other people’s,” she says. “I’m secure in what I believe. If someone else believes differently than me, I’m not threatened by that.”
Other members don’t seem to be either. They elected Newall to lead the Yakima association before they broke for their annual summer-long hiatus. Due to time constraints, she wanted to share the leadership role and responsibilities with Ecker.
“I said I would do it if John helps me,” Newall says.
“Our home lives are different. Our faith lives are different,” she says. But, “the variety of skills we have to offer coordinates well in terms of leadership. I have a lot of respect for the man.”
Ecker echoes that sentiment: “We have definite differences in church discipline and the way we worship,” the 74-year-old says. “We don’t talk about dogmatic differences very much; we talk about what we have in common.”
And that’s “a love of people and a love of the community,” Newall says. “Our common goals are altruistic. That’s where we share passion.”
So do other members of the interfaith association, which works to serve the community, Newall says, “without strings attached.”
“We’re not trying to convert anyone,” Ecker says. “We stress our similarities and what we can work on together to take care of the poor and homeless and the gangs in this city.”
The pair have known each other about as long as Newall has been in Yakima. She came here from the East Coast in the fall of 1993. By the following spring, she had started Rainbow Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church.
The association, traditionally made up largely of representatives of mainline churches — a group which includes United Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians — was already here.
But 59-year-old David Helseth, senior pastor of Yakima’s Englewood Christian Church and the out-going leader of the association, says it has evolved over the years and become more inclusive.
A particular emphasis to reach out to other denominations and religions was made after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Helseth says. Around that time, the group broadened its scope even further, loosening by-laws and including “Faith Communities” in its title.
Today, “All of these people are at this table,” Helseth says. “We are a very broad group, and that’s part of our strength and part of our challenge.”
The idea — and the group itself — isn’t new. In fact, the association has been around since the 1960s. Ecker helped start it following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
“There was an opening of doors and windows to work ecumenically,” he says. “That was pretty much the impetus.”
These days, the group meets for lunch and discussion once a month at Yakima’s Central Lutheran Church. About 20 pastors and lay leaders usually attend.
Members pledge to work together in mutual support, respecting each other’s convictions and distinctions and pooling their resources. The latest season of collaboration and cooperation — without compromising beliefs —
began in September.
Many attendees represented local mainline churches. Also at the table: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon church, and the current president of Yakima’s Temple Shalom. And on the rolls: representatives of the Bahá’í Faith.
Deciding priorities for the coming year was one of the first orders of business. And Newall emphasized the need for more outreach.
“We are such a diverse group it can be challenging to approach issues, especially ones that have any kind of controversy around them,” she says. “We might not agree on the how, but we probably agree on the problem.”
Issues up for discussion included gangs and prevention, family enrichment programs, health and wellness, immigration, and environmental concerns. After the tally, top priorities for this year were homelessness, race relations and cooperation with Yakima schools.
Says Newall, “I really think we can be more pro-active than we have been in years past.”
Traditionally, the Yakima association has been involved with the Yakima CROP Walk, an annual 5-kilometer walk to support the work of Church World Service. One-fourth of what is raised in Yakima stays here. This year, the monies went to Yakima Interfaith Coalition/La Casa Hogar, a faith-based organization that provides emergency services and helps Hispanic immigrant women and children.
Yakima Interfaith Coalition/La Casa Hogar is an outgrowth of the association, which continues to support the nonprofit through donations and offerings collected at interfaith worship services.
It also sponsors interfaith Good Friday and Thanksgiving services and participates in the local Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.
Association dues are $50 a year. The money is used to cover administrative costs. It’s also given to other organizations — like Yakima Interfaith Coalition/La Casa Hogar — to help address community needs
Hi, all. Here’s the article that appeared in today’s Yakima Herald-Republic. A couple notes: The article says there will be a reception with Jade before the performance. It will actually be AFTER the performance. And Gonzalez seems to have gotten the performances a little mixed up (when she starts to write about ICONS, she’s actually still talking about Tortilla Heaven?). See also our post on Jade for more information about his performance here at Rainbow Cathedral. Laura
Humor. Laughter. Two languages. Three generations. Eight characters.
But it still adds up to humor that should give audiences some good laughs when Texas native Jade Esteban Estrada performs two shows in Yakima — a Friday night performance at Davis High School and a Saturday night program at the Rainbow Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church.
Estrada, who appeared on Comedy Central’s “Graham Norton Effect,” said Friday’s one-man show, “Tortilla Heaven” (which won the 2004 Literary Award for Best Play) will grip the cultural struggles Mexican-Americans face in assimilating into the United States while attempting to keep their traditions.
And the same is true for his Saturday performance, a solo play called “Icons: The Lesbian and Gay History of the World, Vol. 1.”
“It’s very important for us to discuss our differences to move on,” Estrada said during a phone interview last week from his San Antonio home.
During the Davis show, Estrada portrays characters from first, second and third generations. He plans to capture the struggles of immigrants and identify the “pressures of America,” which allows him to reach out to all viewers regardless of their ethnicity.
Although the play “Icons” — written by his sister, Celeste Angela, and directed by his brother, David Miguel — reflects his challenges as a fourth-generation Mexican-American and has hints of his relationship with his abuela (grandmother), it doesn’t focus on Estrada’s life.
“The story hits different aspects of (all) people’s lives,” the 31-year-old Estrada said. “There’s so much truth in it. It’s impossible for no one (to) understand it.”
And it’s a truth — with a snap of comedy — Maria Cuevas was searching for to close this year’s Yakima Valley Community College Cultural Diversity Series and kick off the college’s weekend conference of MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, or Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan).
Cuevas, diversity series organizer, said the performance touches various diversity issues facing the Yakima Valley and the country, including ethnicity, gender, language and race. And it allows the community to learn about them to later participate nationwide dialogues.
“It helps identify with the human element of the serious issue,” Cuevas said.
Lots of laughs
Jade Esteban Estrada offers two performances in Yakima this week:
* “Tortilla Heaven” — 8 p.m. Friday at Davis High School Auditorium. A reception starts at 7:15 p.m. General admission is $5 or free for students and seniors with ID. For more information, call Maria Cuevas at 574-6800, ext. 3151.
* “Icons: The Lesbian and Gay History of the World, Vol. 1” — 8 p.m. Saturday at the Rainbow Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church, 225 N. Second St. A reception and chance to chat with the performer precedes the show. General admission is $12 or $10 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the door. For more information, call 457-6454.
Here’s a copy of Jesus son of Joseph’s obituary (our Palm Sunday service will be a Memorial to Jesus)
I just wanted to pass on something I just came across. Pamela Miller, from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, writes about a couple of churches that have decided to treat their hetero- and homo- sexual couples equally — by no longer offering civil weddings. Great title: Church takes stand against straight marriage. It appears to have been published April 16, 2006, but the article’s no longer on the Star Tribune website.
Anyway, besides the great title, I wanted to quote one of the pastors:
The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, a member of Lyndale United, acknowledged that people of faith cite scriptures for both sides of the same-sex marriage debate.
“The arc of the gospel always moves toward circles of inclusivity, and in earlier debates about human rights, people who err on the side of inclusivity have been proven right,” she said. “Very few passages in the Bible deal with homosexuality, but many can be lifted up in arguments for justice and equal treatment.”
Yes, yes, yes!
Hi, everyone. This was posted as part of MCC’s Diverse Voices of Justice Newsletter (an ongoing series of reflections and op-ed articles by members of Metropolitan Community Churches). I thought it was worth re-posting on our blog.
The following reflection was authored by the Reverend Pat Bumgardner, senior pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of New York. Rev. Bumgardner serves as Chair of MCC’s Global Justice Team.
Saddam Hussein was hung to death in Iraq before dawn on December 30, 2006, just prior to the call to morning prayer. Though accused of many things, the conviction and death sentence were for the massacre of 148 men and boys in the town of Dujail 24 years ago.
Four women stood before photographers for the New York Times with pictures of their slain loved ones, and people who witnessed the hanging said Mr. Hussein was unusually submissive and, in the end, simply resigned himself to his fate.
Not much was said about the letter authored to the Iraqi nation in the final days before this execution, calling for peace and attempting to quell any potential escalation of sectarian violence his death might inspire.
Following his death, the media devoted much time to the question of where the body of this one-time dictator would be laid to rest. Many fear death’s apparent ability — even in the case of those who have committed atrocities — to alter views of the past and inspire hopes for the future.
Perhaps that should be the real question we ask ourselves in our prayers this week, and the question we ask every morning in prayer: “What are our hopes for the future — our hopes for the world?”
Will executing human beings, even those of admittedly tyrannical repute, guarantee a better future for the hundreds of thousands of people who cling to life under desperate conditions in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East? What will restore hope and promise to a part of the world once hailed as the cradle of civilization?
Every morning in prayer, the breviary I follow begins with the words, “Open my lips, O God, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.” What will proclaim the praise of God this day? Perhaps we should add to our morning prayers the recitation of the text we hold most sacred and the higher law we profess to live by: “Thou shalt not kill.” “God takes no delight in the sacrifice of life,” Psalm 51 says.
Not long ago, in this same corner of the world, in Iran, two young boys named Mahmoud and Ayaz, were hung to death because they, too, broke the law. They were gay. And in their country, being gay is a capital offense — it undermines the future of the people and dashes the promise of humanity, we are told.
Many will say there is no connection between the two executions. But many of us also learned early in life that two wrongs don’t make a right. Taking life is taking life. Maybe our morning prayer today should begin simply with a petition for forgiveness for all the ways we have worked against the promise of peace on earth and good will among all.
The Reverend Pat Bumgardner
Senior Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of New York
Chair, MCC Global Justice
Hello, all. Check out today’s Yakima Herald-Republic. Rev. Jane was featured in an article called Connecting with Jesus. It’s the third part of a series called “Faces of Jesus” and features ten local people’s views of Jesus, including Rev Jane’s. I’ve excerpted her part below. Click on the title to read the entire article.
Photos by SARA GETTYS
Story by ADRIANA JANOVICH
Today, a range of community members — from City Hall, church, jail, Starbucks, the Union Gospel Mission — share their personal beliefs about Jesus.Some are wrestling with hardships or their pasts. Some are in need. A few are progressive. A couple don’t believe. Most pray.
With a few exceptions, they are people who by and large aren’t usually in the pages of the newspaper. In it today, they describe their relationship — or lack thereof — with Jesus. They discuss their struggles, convictions, hopes.
Jane Newall does not put Jesus in a box.“There is no box,” says the 37-year-old founding pastor of Yakima’s Rainbow Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church. “Jesus is not stagnant.”
Newall doesn’t have a static view of Jesus. Instead, she believes he is present in each person.
“Whenever we help someone else, we’re helping Jesus directly,” she says.
Likewise, she doesn’t have a visual image of Jesus: “I think that helps me to expand who Jesus is. Jesus has many faces, not just one.”
“I know, for some people, a tangible image is what they need to meditate on to relate to God,” she says. “I don’t need that as much. If I can see or experience Jesus in everyone, as opposed to one particular type of person, that is closer, I think, to what he wants for us to do.”
“It’s a living process. We can help Jesus come into people’s lives and participate in that process.”
While Newall believes Jesus is present in each person, she also believes the Son of God will return to Earth in the flesh — as a woman, the Daughter of God.
“I believe God is male and female and a whole lot more,” she says. “God created us — female and male — in God’s image. There’s a prototype of God we haven’t seen.”
She points to Genesis 1:27, which reads: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
Then, God blessed them. Both.
Recently Time magazine published an article written by James Dobson, leader of the group Focus on the Family. The title of the article was Two Mommies Is One Mommy Too Many.
In response, Rev. Jane wrote the following letter to Time Magazine:
Is Jesus’s family not good enough for James Dobson?
Jesus’s great (times 27) grandmothers, Naomi and Ruth, raised Obed. Boaz was a sperm donor.
David’s love for the man Jonathan surpassed his love for a woman.
Biblical scholar Virginia Ramey Mollenkott counted 39 different families and living arrangements in the Bible, of which heterosexual marriage is only one.
We do not know if Jesus had a sexual orientation. He spent time with men and women. The disciple whom Jesus loved lay his head on Jesus’s lap during the last supper.
The prophet John the Baptist came with a message to turn the hearts of parents towards their children. James Dobson’s heart is not turned towards children. He advocates in his books physical violence as a way to discipline a child.
Why would Time magazine publish an article about what is best for children written by such a man?
Check out this soulforce article from yesterday: Good News for Mary Cheney: Focus on the Family Is Wrong About LGBT Families.
It comments on a New York Times article on Mary Cheney’s pregnancy which included a comment from someone at Focus on the Family that, of course, it’s not good for children to be born outside the context of a married mother and father. But soulforce points out that sociological and psychological research finds no evidence of ANY harm. Then the article continues…
“In fact, Stacey [a sociologist] commented, children of same-sex parents may turn out even better by some measures: ‘It’s not because of the sexuality but because of selection factors. It’s because these are wanted children…. When you’re looking at heterosexual parenting, you have a lot of accidental pregnancies.’ “
Yes! I’ve often thought that.
P.S. Congratulations to Mary Cheney and her partner on their pregnancy.
Published on Saturday, October 14, 2006
BY THE REV. JANE EMMA NEWALL
Some thoughts from a pastor on the eighth anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death:
* Marvin died on Maundy Thursday 2003 in Toppenish.
The first report was natural causes, but someone had messed up his trailer and run his Ford truck into a ditch at another location. Police also suggested Marvin had died of autoerotic asphyxiation, but ultimately, authorities concluded a few weeks later that the gay man had been strangled.
The crime remains unsolved.
* The couple wore smart outfits and had colorful flowers at their Holy Union. Their families sat in the church as they exchanged their vows and rings.
At a later date at Grant’s, the couple ate dinner with co-workers. But they took off their rings that night so no one would notice that they matched one another as they wrapped their hands around their beers. Read the rest of this entry